I’m delighted to inform you that Jorge Vilda is thoroughly clapped out. The manager of Spain’s World Cup-winning women’s team has been given the heave-ho, after being seen heartily applauding the most excruciating speech in football — the one in which Luis Rubiales, president of the RFEF Spanish football association, invoked “false feminism” and “witch hunts” in an attempt to brush off having forcibly kissed player Jennifer Hermoso on the lips at the final. Coincidentally, it was the same speech in which Rubiales called Vilda the best coach in women’s football and offered him a new four-year contract worth 500,000 Euros (£428,000). Clap, clap, clap.
Not a great look when, as the team’s manager, it’s pretty much your job description to champion your champions. But then, according to allegations from the players (which Vilda denies), during his eight years in charge, 42-year-old Vilda hasn’t been the sort of leader to let little things like his players’ health and happiness get in the way. It might seem extraordinary that it’s taken a fortnight for him to be sacked after the applauding incident, but it seems to me his P45 should have been typed up years ago.
My vote would have been before 2019, when Vilda allegedly had in place a rule that meant female players on the international team were not allowed to lock their hotel room doors until he had checked everything was ‘fine’ — upon which he would turn the lights out and permit them to sleep. I’ll leave that one with you for a moment in case you need to re-read it before running into the bedroom and screaming into a pillow. Door unlocked, light on, please.
A pity he didn’t seem to care so much when they complained about inadequate training sessions that left them less fit than when they arrived at camps
Or perhaps he could have said ‘adios’ when, according to Spanish newspaper reports, he demanded to check the contents of players’ bags after they returned from shopping trips. Who knows what he could have been looking for: books of spells, black cats, and broomsticks?
A pity he didn’t seem to care so much when they complained about inadequate training sessions that left them less fit than when they arrived at camps, poor facilities, an absence of tactical analysis, gruelling bus journeys, being forced to play every minute of matches without being rested — oh, and that nothing was done when they did complain.
Well, naturally. Because the instinct of men like this, when fingers are pointed in their direction, is to double down. Vilda has claimed that he was fired “unjustly” because he’d already been told his contract would be renewed.
His instincts are towards self-preservation and self-pity. The day after Rubiales was suspended by Fifa — and perhaps sensing the writing on the wall himself — Vilda was suddenly calling the president’s behaviour “unacceptable” and “inappropriate”.
And that same instinct kicked in last September, when 15 members of the Spanish team staged a rebellion and declared themselves unavailable for selection, sending emails to the football federation that criticised the impact of the team culture on their “emotional state” and “health”.
Tsk, women eh? So prone to hysteria. No wonder that poor old Jorge said he was “deeply hurt” and would “not wish on anyone what I have gone through”, as well as challenging other footballers he has worked with to come forward if they had accusations of inappropriate behaviour to make against him. Which definitely isn’t to be regarded as inappropriate behaviour in itself.
Even then Vilda kept his job, which has absolutely nothing to do with his relationship with Rubiales, who has renewed Vilda’s contract time and again, despite him not having won anything since a youth cup in 2011. (Although it probably doesn’t need spelling out at this point, let’s be clear: the Spanish women’s team won this year’s World Cup despite, not thanks to, him.)
So what now? On the surface, it’s good news: 41-year-old Montse Tome, a former Spanish midfielder, has been named Vilda’s successor and becomes the first woman to hold the position. While Rubiales remains under his 90-day ban, pending an investigation.
Except, the statement released by the RFEF, lavishing Vilda with praise even as he’s given the boot (“we value his impeccable personal and sporting conduct”) suggests the federation may be in survival mode, rather than genuinely seeking ways to turn the spotlight back on its national team.
Could the dominoes be about to fall in Spanish women’s football? Or could Vilda be the fall man, taking the hit so his powerful ally can remain as president? They might be able to lock their bedroom doors at night, but the players probably don’t feel as though they can sleep soundly just yet.
Claire is the author of BFF? The Truth About Female Friendship.